This one is, I’m afraid, just not that very good. It hits the plot points, has a mix of jokes, but just feels empty and too easy.
Asterix and the Magic Carpet
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Colorist: Marcel Uderzo
Translator: Derek Hockridge and Anthea Bell
Published by: Orion/Hachette
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 1987
Original Title: “Astérix chez Rahazade”
New Super Powers: Bring the Rain!
Cacofonix’s singing brings rain to the world. 27 volumes later, this is something Albert Uderzo made up to hang a story on. When the Bard sings, it rains. You know, just like it did in all the previous books where it never actually did…
I’m not a stickler for continuity, but this is a hell of a continuity implant for the sake of kicking off a weak story.
You see, a King’s daughter is to be sentenced to death unless it rains in her kingdom. A friendly fakir rides his magic carpet to the Village to bring Cacofonix back with him to sing for the rain and to save the princess’ life.
No. Just — no. I have to reject the very premise of the book. It’s a little too far out there, even for a book which once sent Asterix to Switzerland for a magical flower.
I have one “deep” thought on this one, but then I’m going to do lots of short takes on this book.
Continuity and Event Books of the 1980s
This book picks up in continuity after the events at the end of volume 27, “Asterix and Son.” The Romans had burned down the Village, but then Julius Caesar fixed it up and re-built everything exactly the same. In case you missed the previous volume, Chief Vitalstatistix has the exposition dump on page one for you. Though, since there’s no real visible difference between the new and old villages, there’s really no need to hang a lantern on this plot point. Just let it fly away and move on….
And so much for Asterix books standing completely on their own…
It’s something Uderzo keeps adding to the books. He’s adding more continuity to the series, bringing old favorite characters back, and trying to include all the Greatest Hits of Asterix into every book. Again, this is something I mentioned in my last review.
But it just dawned on me what this scenario reminded me of. It was another literary scenario that took place in the 1980s. It landed on Isaac Asimov’s shoulders. He created a series of short stories that turned into classics 20 years earlier, either under the “Robots” banner or “Foundation.” In the 80s, he signed big book deals to continue the series in print. All of a sudden, you had these publishing “events”. When the stories weren’t coming out in the magazines with a shorter regularity, they were repackaged to be big hardcover books with all the bells and whistles. Those stories had to be important and service what the fans wanted. They were designed to be best sellers.
I can sense this happening with Uderzo. I pulled that quote of his in my last review, where he talks about keeping the fans happy and what an Asterix book needs to be successful. He was trapped by his own success and had to work within a certain expected framework. The problem with that is, you don’t get anything new. You just get a checklist to fill out with little room to expand beyond it.
The most blatant continuity call-back in the book happens as they fly on the magic carpet over Greece. It’s a half page spread looking down on the city and Asterix and Obelix share a moment remembering “Asterix at the Olympic Games.” It has nothing to do with the plot. It doesn’t add anything to any character. It doesn’t recall a memory for the reader that might apply to the current story.
It’s like Uderzo is taking a half page to say to his readers, “Hey, remember that great book we did that one time? It was pretty great, wasn’t it? Eh?”
I can feel him winking at me and nudging me in the ribs. Yes, Albert, we get it! I’ve spent all year to get to this moment so I could get it!
10 Random Thoughts on “Asterix and the Magic Carpet”
The one cross-reference I did enjoy in this book, though, is in this panel, where the evil guy who’s made up this whole plan to take over the kingdom says this:
Iznogoud, for those who don’t know, is a series Rene Goscinny wrote. Cinebook is publishing it these days. I have to admit I’ve only read a few pages of it. I need to read a whole volume of it someday for review…
This is one panel that doesn’t add anything to the story, really, but creates a nice tie-in. I’ll let it go this once.
We’re back to Uderzo getting more magical and fantastical with this book. It all culminates with his final volume, “Asterix and the Falling Sky,” which featured aliens and robots and a lot of crazy stuff.
The closest Goscinny came to science fiction with “Asterix” was with the Druids’ magic potions. Even the Soothsayer was exposed as a fraud pretty early on. He didn’t really have precognition powers.
In this book, we have a man on a flying carpet. It just doesn’t work for me. It feels like it’s going too far now. It’s necessary plot-wise, I suppose, because otherwise it would take too long to get Asterix and Obelix over to India.
Uderzo doesn’t let it stay there, though. There’s a whole flying carpet battle later, complete with wizard spells.
I just prefer the ships and the wagons, the choppy waters and the unpaved roads….
Is It Uderzo? Or Is It Memorex?
We all know Uderzo’s style changed a lot over the years. By the time this book saw print, the series was pushing 30 years old. If you look back at the first volume today, the characters would be early rough drafts of what we have by volume 29. They grew up and out and got more cartoony.
But this book feels like a big jump. The art in this book feels super cartoony. Faces are far more subtle in their humor and expressions. Some hands and faces look out of character. I’m not sure if that’s Uderzo racing to meet his deadlines or a sign of his getting older as an artist, or just my imagination.
Let It Rain
I love how Uderzo draws rain, though. It’s a great technique. It always looks good. It reminds me of how Will Eisner drew it in his various graphic novels.
My Completely Unfair Criticism
“Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”?!?
That’s far too modern a reference for Asterix. And it’s a 1969 song. I’m completely in the wrong here, but I can’t help myself…
Like I said, this is completely unfair. I’m fine with Asterix quoting 1960s French pop songs. It’s part of French culture. But when he’s singing a Burt Bacarach songs from 1969, it’s a bridge too far. It’s probably an addition from Hockridge and Bell, too, I know, but for some reason it really weirded me out.
No, really, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” premiered in 1969. I could have sworn it was early- to -mid 70s!
I’ll say this, though: Hoodunnit is a despicable villain, through and through. There’s nothing subtle about him. His very character design oozes “malevolent bad guy.” His plan is to kill the king’s daughter to bring him a step closer to controlling the land. And when push comes to shove at the end of the book, he basically orders Cacofonix’s death.
Uderzo Loves Animals
I mentioned recently that it feels like Uderzo really likes to draw animals and continues to put cute little background gags into scenes, where possible, with the local animal population.
With this book, he gets to draw lions and elephants, monkeys, and snakes. They’re all pretty good, too.
Obelix Versus the Royal Tiger
I loved this moment, in particular:
A New Purchase
This is the first time I’ve read this book.
This book and the next, “Asterix and the Secret Weapon,” were the last two books in the series I didn’t own and had never read. I picked them up on Amazon in anticipation of these reviews.
This also means these are the two Asterix books I own print editions of from the 2014 remasterings. They look completely different from all the other books in the series on my shelf, but they do look great. These books are super clean.
If You Have to Explain Them…
Uderzo is only ramping up the number of times in each book that he explains his jokes with a footnote. Goscinny didn’t need to do that, except in the most extreme of circumstances. Uderzo just wants to make sure everyone gets his Dad jokes. They go from mostly not terribly funny to definitely not funny at all that way.
Is this the symptom of writing for a very large audience and not being secure in your own writing skills?
Best Name of the Book
There are a few good ones in here. As someone who loves a good “Who’s On First?” routine, how can I not have good things to say about a book starring a character named Watziznehm?
It’s the best one of the book. Hoodunnit is good, and Orinjade works for me just because the spelling is so far from the original words. It helps to camouflage what could be a simple funny name.
Watziznehm wins in a landslide here.
No, not at all. There are 27 better books before you should think about reading this one. This one is just hollow.
Though I will say this– if this was the first and only Asterix book you ever read, you might enjoy it. As you pick up other volumes, your reading experience with this series will only get better.
There, I said something nice.
— 2018.083 —
This next one is a doozy.
You know how some books don’t age well? Some might defend them as being a satire, but the reality is just that there are different norms now and — well, this one has a rough ending. I’m going to spoil it for you, don’t worry.
Click through to read all about “Asterix and the Secret Weapon.”